Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Golden Compass

I didn't see The Golden Compass in the theater, regretfully. It had nothing to do with all of the Christian warnings that it was out to destroy God in the hearts of children, but I think it was because a friend saw it and he said it wasn't very good (but I think he read the books).

You can't always rely on your friends' opinions, because I really liked it. I have not read the books, which I now intend to do, but the fans of the book series say that the movie fell short. So without having read the book(s), this is what I thought of the movie:

First of all I love the fantasy genre, I love losing myself in another world. (While I was reading the Harry Potter Series, I had numerous dreams that I was a witch flying around on a broomstick casting spells.) This fantasy is about parallel universes that house other life forms, ones that have souls living inside their bodies, and others that have souls that live next to them as animals, called daemons. And it's also about DUST. What is Dust? We don't know exactly what it is, but the Magisterium, the authority that rules Europe, is worried about it. In fact, the word "dust" is taboo. The story follows a girl called Lyra, who is curious, courageous, and special. She embarks on a quest to find and join her Uncle who is studying this Dust, and encounters many adventures along the way. . .

The story is inventive and has some great ideas, ones that I would like to explore more. Even not having read the book, I could tell that the story moved too quickly in the movie, which isn't surprising given that almost all movies based on books leave little pieces out. Which I can understand; it is hard to pack 300-500 pages worth of story into 2 hours.

The movie is very visually pleasing. It's the kind of movie that is worth seeing on the big screen. And I especially loved the costume design, of course. Everything that Nicole Kidman's character Mrs. Coulter wears is great. 

I especially love this suit:

The whole time I am watching this I am thinking what a fun job. Especially with a movie such as this. It is a fantasy set in no specific time: it's not the present, it's not really the future, and it's not necessarily the past. So what do you do when when you need to capture a timeless look? Make it classic. Which is exactly what was done. The clothing looks mostly 20's-40's, decades that I love. So when the movie was over the first thing I did was Googled Ruth Myers. (Here she talks about designing for Compass.) It was no surprise to me that she designed the costumes for the HBO show Carnivale, and film Infamous , both of which I really liked. Carnivale was a great show set in the 30's. Unfortunately it only lasted 2 seasons. Infamous was the story of Truman Capote and his book In Cold Blood. Which I thought was better than the previous year's film about the same story simply titled Capote.

It is unfortunate that Compass didn't get seen by many people--American people that is-- because of the bad press it got about being atheistic and anti-Christian. (Overseas it did well.) I just think that people need to put a little faith in their own Faith. Did Christians really feel that if their children saw this, they weren't going to believe in God anymore? Maybe they did, I guess. I don't know because I am not Christian, so I didn't feel threatened. So who knows? But still, put faiths aside and enjoy a good movie for what it is: a Fantasy.

Also this is interesting:

I saw Prince Caspian in the theater. Eehh. . . the acting was bad, the dialogue sucked, and in contrast to Compass, the costumes were completely boring and unimaginative. But I read a review of this movie on the Christian site It is a Christian story, and this was at the end of a review on the site:

  • Drugs/Alcohol: None.
  • Language/Profanity: None.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity: Innocent romantic chemistry between Prince Caspian and Susan. One brief kiss.
  • Violence/Other: Medieval combat violence (swordplay, kills, etc.) with visual allusions to decapitations (but doesn’t actually visualize it), all set in a fantasy world.
The decapitation is visualized, there's just no blood. I don't mind violent movies, I was just surprised that it got a PG rating because it was pretty violent.

And I read a review of Compass on the same site and these were the cautions:


  • Drugs/Alcohol: A bear drinks whiskey.
  • Language: Mild name-calling.
  • Sex: None.
  • Violence: Woman choking a child with magic, slapping a monkey, men dying of arrows, gunfire, explosions. A bear fight with the antagonist bear having it’s jaw ripped off.
  • Worldview: Mystical. Magic is “normal.” The church is an evil threat. “Daemons” are helpful.

The violence in Caspian is downplayed, while in Compass, they mention slapping a monkey. It's a bit skewed.

I'm just saying. . .


Moxie Tonic said...

I was very excited about the movie - in the previews the visuals and costumes looked amazing. In preparation I decided to re-read the first book in the series. Part way through I realized the enormity of what a movie would have to capture to even hope of doing justice to the story. So I opted not to see the film... I just wish there had been such great literature around when I was a kid!

Sugardale said...

I bought the books for my sister, but didn't read them myself. But I am going to visit her and the rest of my family this weekend, I think I am going to borrow them from her.